Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Draw 50 Sea Creatures by Lee J. Ames, Erin Harvey

book cover
Draw 50 Sea Creatures
by Lee J. Ames,
Erin Harvey


ISBN-13: 9780399580178
Paperback: 67 pages
Publisher: Ten Speed Press
Released: July 25, 2017

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description, Modified from NetGalley:
In this new installment of Lee J. Ames's beloved Draw 50 series, readers will find easy-to-follow, step-by-step visual lessons on sketching and rendering all kinds of sea and ocean-dwelling creatures. Animals and plants from in and near the water featured in the book include clownfish, whale sharks, sea otters, dolphins, turtles and more.


My Review:
Draw 50 Sea Creatures is a drawing book. Except for some brief encouragement at the beginning of the book, there was no text describing how to draw the various figures. He usually provided 6 steps for drawing each sea creature. You build the creature by drawing the lines demonstrated in each step in the book. The final step showed the fully shaded-in plant or animal, but you're left to experiment to figure out how to create a similar shading on your line figure. Some of the animals with more complex texture patterns had "guides" drawn during step 5 to help you place the shading in step 6.

As I said, most of the figures had you add lines to lines to create the figure in steps 1 through 5 and then added shading in step 6. These were the easiest ones to do, in my opinion. Some figures had you draw guide lines in the first few steps (which are erased from the final drawing) before you start on the actual animal. I'd suggest looking at the whole sequence before drawing these as sometimes I found it easier to skip one or more of the guide line steps. The blade coral had so many guide lines and was so complex that I found the suggested sequence too messy to successfully follow.

The drawings were grouped by type (fish, shell animals, etc.) rather than difficulty level, so the complex figures were mixed in with the easier ones. I'd suggest starting with some of the easier ones to get used to this learning style. You can draw some decent looking sea creatures using this book--better than I could without the suggested steps. However, I now realize that I prefer to learn drawing from books that include more steps and/or text to explain the steps.


If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.


Thursday, July 20, 2017

Simply Electrifying by Craig R. Roach

book cover
Simply Electrifying
by Craig R. Roach


ISBN-13: 9781944648268
Hardcover: 400 pages
Publisher: BenBella Books
Released: July 25, 2017

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description, Modified from Goodreads:
Electricity is at the core of all modern life. It has transformed our society more than any other technology. Yet, no book offers a comprehensive history about this technological marvel. Until now.

This book brings to life the 250-year history of electricity through the stories of the men and women who used it to transform our world: Benjamin Franklin, James Watt, Michael Faraday, Samuel F.B. Morse, Thomas Edison, Samuel Insull, Albert Einstein, Rachel Carson, Elon Musk, and more. In the process, it reveals for the first time the complete, thrilling, and often-dangerous story of electricity’s historic discovery, development, and worldwide application.

Written by electricity expert and four-decade veteran of the industry Craig R. Roach, Simply Electrifying marshals, in fascinating narrative detail, the full range of factors that shaped the electricity business over time—science, technology, law, politics, government regulation, economics, business strategy, and culture—before looking forward toward the exhilarating prospects for electricity generation and use that will shape our future.


My Review:
Simply Electrifying is a history of electricity for the average person. Anything technical regarding an invention, experiment, or scientific idea was explained in simple terms. It was mostly a collection of biographies of people who made a major impact on the history of electricity and how we use it. The author also talked about how politics, technology choices, and economics have impacted how we use electricity. I'd recommend this book to those who'd watch a documentary on the topic, as it had a similar feel.

He covered Benjamin Franklin (how the Leyden Jar worked, lightening experiments), James Watt (invented improved steam engine, which was used for electrical generation), Michael Faraday (link between magnetism and electricity, invented electric motor, electric generator), James Maxwell (electromagnetic waves), Samuel Morse (telegraph) and the transatlantic cable.

Thomas Edison (inventions needed for an electricity industry, like electric light bulbs, wall switches, power lines, generators), George Westinghouse and Nikola Tesla (AC/DC current wars, AC electric motor, Tesla coil), Samuel Insull (economy of scale to lower pricing and make electricity affordable).

FDR's New Deal for electricity (more hydro power and proposed government action and regulation), the building of Hoover Dam, the Tennessee Valley Authority and David Lilienthal (public versus private utilities), coal mining and use and John L. Lewis (labor strikes), Albert Einsten, nuclear weapons and nuclear power plants, the modern environmental movement, California's electricity crisis and competitive reform, President Obama's Clean Power Plan, climate change, George Mitchell's shale gas revolution (fracking and natural gas usage), and Elon Musk's vision for the future of electricity set against the lessons learned from history.


If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.


Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Jane Austen at Home by Lucy Worsley

book cover
Jane Austen at Home
by Lucy Worsley


ISBN-13: 9781250131607
Hardcover: 352 pages
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Released: July 11, 2017

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description from NetGalley:
Take a trip back to Jane Austen's world and the many places she lived as historian Lucy Worsley visits Austen's childhood home, her schools, her holiday accommodations, the houses--both grand and small--of the relations upon whom she was dependent, and the home she shared with her mother and sister towards the end of her life. In places like Steventon Parsonage, Godmersham Park, Chawton House and a small rented house in Winchester, Worsley discovers a Jane Austen very different from the one who famously lived a 'life without incident'.

Worsley examines the rooms, spaces and possessions which mattered to her, and the varying ways in which homes are used in her novels as both places of pleasure and as prisons. She shows readers a passionate Jane Austen who fought for her freedom, a woman who had at least five marriage prospects, but--in the end--a woman who refused to settle for anything less than Mr. Darcy.

Illustrated with two sections of color plates, Lucy Worsley's Jane Austen at Home is a richly entertaining and illuminating new book about one of the world’s favorite novelists and one of the subjects she returned to over and over in her unforgettable novels: home.


My Review:
Jane Austen at Home is a look at Jane Austen's life from the perspective of what her daily life was like. Starting with her family and her birth, we learn what the house was like, how she was educated, what her social life was like, and so on. The author used letters, guidebooks from the time, old records, etc., to reconstruct what her daily life was like throughout her life and in different homes. She included many quotes from Jane's letters to her sister (and others), so we get to hear Jane's opinions in her own words.

The author mentioned Jane's marriage prospects and her path to publication, but she brought out the reasons why she might choose to marry or reject an offer and looked at how Jane found time to write, how she lived with a brother (who was her advocate with the publisher) when double-checking the galleys, and so on.

I really enjoyed how she pointed out real people and occurrences that happened in Jane's life that have echoes in novel. Since I enjoy learning about Georgian and Regency daily life and enjoy Jane Austen's stories, I found this book enjoyable on many levels. I'd highly recommend this interesting book.


If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.


Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.

Monday, July 3, 2017

The Pinks by Chris Enss

book cover
The Pinks
by Chris Enss


ISBN-13: 9781493008339
Paperback: 208 pages
Publisher: Two Dot Books
Released: July 1, 2017

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description, Modified from NetGalley:
Most students of the Old West and American law enforcement history know the story of the notorious and ruthless Pinkerton Detective Agency and the legends behind their role in establishing the Secret Service and tangling with Old West Outlaws.

But the story of Kate Warne, an operative of the Pinkerton Agency and the first woman detective in America, and the stories of other women who served their country are not as well known. From Kate Warne’s part in saving the life of Abraham Lincoln in 1861 to the lives and careers of the other women who spied during the Civil War, these true stories add another dimension to our understanding of American history. Their stories are richly illustrated throughout with numerous historical photographs.


My Review:
The Pinks is a collection of true crime and spy stories and some biographies. The author talked about several of Kate Warne's cases and about various other women who worked as spies during the Civil War. We're told a little about Pinkerton, his detective agency, and how he hired Kate Warne in 1861. We get details about a couple cases that Kate helped solve (before and after the war). These cases were interesting, especially as the Pinkerton team was hired more to gain confessions than gather clues.

But most of the chapters talked about spying just before and during the Civil War. Kate Warne, Hettie Lawton, Vinne Ream, Elizabeth Baker, Mary Touvestre, Elizabeth Van Lew, and Dr. Mary Edwards Walker were all involved in spying for the Union during the war. I don't think that they all worked for the Pinkerton Detective Agency, though.

Some of the chapters described details about what the woman did and discovered, but some missions were covered only in general terms. The chapter on Dr. Walker focused more on her ambitions and what happened after the war than on what she did as a spy. One chapter was more about submarines and the battles involving the Merrimack and the Monitor than about the women who passed on information about the submarines.

I'd expected more details about Kate Warne's life or a focus on the detective cases involving the first female Pinkerton operatives. Though the book focused more on spying and gave only a brief look at these women, it was interesting to learn some of the things these women did.


If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.


Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Just for Fun: Drawing by Lise Herzog

book cover
Just for Fun: Drawing
by Lise Herzog


ISBN-13: 9781633222816
Paperback: 160 pages
Publisher: Walter Foster
Released: May 1, 2017

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description from NetGalley:
With Just for Fun: Drawing, aspiring artists and art enthusiasts who have never before picked up a pencil can follow incredibly simple step-by-step instructions and discover how to draw everyday subjects. Each featured subject starts with basic lines and shapes, and slowly progresses with each new step to a fully rendered, completed drawing.

Saving the nitty-gritty technical aspects of drawing for the more advanced student, Just for Fun: Drawing simply touches upon key drawing concepts and fundamentals, including perspective, proportion, volume, shading, and composition, among others, that are relevant to a beginner's core understanding of the craft. With its abundance of approachable and contemporary drawings, as well as loads of tips, instruction, and inspiration, Just for Fun: Drawing will have even the most artistically challenged individuals mastering the art of pencil drawing in no time.


My Review:
Just for Fun: Drawing is an art book to help beginners learn how to draw. It combined text describing what to do and why you do it with simple, step-by-step drawings. This allows the person to learn how to draw cats in general, for example, not just the pose shown in the book.

I'd recommend this as a good beginner artist book for tweens and teens (or older). It's done in a style that should keep a younger person interested, but it also taught some basics found in adult drawing books. So we learn how to draw basic shapes--in perspective--and how to add simple texture and shading.

The book began by describing what drawing tools to use, and you can start out with as little as a common pencil and a sheet of computer paper. Other tools were described, but you don't have to start fancy. We then get the step-by-step "add a circle here and here, combine the shapes, add some texture" instructions. These usually involved four steps that were easy to understand and weren't complex to draw.

We're taught to draw animals like cats, big cats, dogs, wolves, rabbits, horses, cow, and birds. There were brief descriptions on how to draw people standing and in motion, the parts of the body, and clothing. And we learn to draw nature in part (like a tree, flower, or water) or as a whole landscape drawing. The finished drawings should look recognizable without being complex to draw.


If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.


Saturday, June 24, 2017

Foundations of Drawing by Al Gury

book cover
Foundations of Drawing
by Al Gury


ISBN-13: 978-0307987181
Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: Watson-Guptill
Released: June 13, 2017

Source: Review copy from the publisher through Blogging for Books.

Book Description, Modified from Amazon:
From a leading art instructor at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia, a complete survey of drawing as an art form covering its history, materials, and key techniques.

Foundations of Drawing is a comprehensive and authoritative overview of the history, aesthetics, methods, and materials of the drawing medium. Throughout, clearly defined demonstrations provide easy access to the practice of drawing as well as the history and development of core drawing techniques. Richly illustrated, the book contains reproductions of the finest master drawings from the fifteenth century to the present.

Unlike other drawing instruction books that focus on step-by-step lessons exclusively, Foundations of Drawing provides readers with the context and background to help understand just why these materials and methods are so vital for successful drawing.


My Review:
Foundations of Drawing is an art book about the history, tools, materials, and techniques of drawing. I wish I had this book when I started learning how to draw. My original art instructor and many art books assumed that I already understood what various drawing terms meant or what mediums best worked with what paper. This book is cheap considering it'll save you money by explaining what supplies you really needed for what you want to do.

The book started off with a brief history of drawing, which looked at the various periods to see what styles dominated or changes took place. The author then described the various drawing tools and materials, including how to best use them and what papers or brushes work best with which mediums. This was so helpful and explained why I've felt frustrated at times. He also explained the advantages and disadvantages of the various mediums. He included watercolor and other paints when used in a "drawing" style.

He then covered a wide variety of drawing skills, like how to hold drawing tools; use grids; blend; erase; use line, shape, and hatching; create light and shade, and more. He clearly explained the various terms and how to do the skill. There were illustrations either showing a finished work that used a technique or demonstrating how to do it. A lot of the drawings were of nudes or figures, though he did describe the steps to take to compose and draw still life, interiors and architecture, as well as portraits and figures.

I expect to regularly consult this book until I settle down to a favored medium and style. I'd highly recommend this as a reference book for students and self-taught individuals who are serious about learning to draw. Don't expect a lot of step-by-step drawing projects but rather the basics of how to draw well that you can apply to any project.


If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.


Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Anywhere, Anytime Art: Watercolor by Barbara Roth

book cover
Anywhere, Anytime Art: Watercolor
by Barbara Roth


ISBN-13: 9781633221956
Paperback: 128 pages
Publisher: Walter Foster Publishing
Released: May 1, 2017

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description from NetGalley:
Whether in your backyard or while traveling the world, Anywhere, Anytime Art: Watercolor is an inspirational, easy-to-use reference guide for artists who seek to expand their artistic horizons in new and adventurous ways.

After a basic overview of tools and materials, learn how to find inspiration and beauty everywhere and in everything. Discover how to create a portable pack-and-carry supply box to create art spontaneously, even while on the go. Basic drawing and painting techniques, approachable step-by-step projects, and instructions for working with tools outside the studio demonstrate how easy it is to draw and paint without too much advanced planning.

Anywhere, Anytime Art: Watercolor inspires artists of all skill levels to embrace their creative side to create beautiful works of art wherever they might be, from Monet's garden in Giverny, France, to sitting in their car on a rainy morning.


My Review:
Anywhere, Anytime Art: Watercolor is a art book that will help you create a portable watercolor kit or get set up to paint during short breaks. The author described what tools and materials are best suited for portable watercolor painting. She briefly described how to sketch a scene and then paint it, and how to do this from a photo. She very briefly described color theory and different watercolor techniques. She then provided 12 step-by-step painting projects that are fairly simple to draw and paint. The cover painting is one of those projects.

The author's basic technique is to sketch out a scene then paint in the colors with watercolor (without getting too detailed). While the author did give some tips that would be helpful for beginners, it's aimed at people already familiar with the basics of watercolor. For example, there are no pictures of what a "puddle of paint" looks like or how to do a flat wash. She assumes that you know what that means or can guess based on her text descriptions.

In the step-by-step projects, she tells the reader what colors to use for different objects and what technique to use to apply it. The changes between the steps were small enough that I could see what was being done and didn't feel confused about what she was describing. Overall, I'd recommend this book to those who like her style and want to go more portable.

I've tried a few of the step-by-step projects, and my end product looked better than my watercolors ever have in the past. I think it's having the pencil or ink along with the watercolor. I'm glad I tried out this book.


If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.


Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.